South Portico Steps

Page 25
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Steps to Knowledge
August 10th, 2007
The basement rooms were nearing competition so Rich asked Neil Aakerstrom, of Aakerstrom and Son wood flooring, to complete and clear coat the second floor library in preparation for the next stage of interior trim work. Neil edged the floor with ash and dark walnut. Inside he placed a parquet floor styled after Louis XIV and his palace, Versailles, in 17th century France.
Meanwhile Joe sanded and painted Corinthian columns and capitals so Kim could later place them in the library. The winters are long in Montana and well suited for serious reading, study and writing. Situated in the northwest corner of the house the library's walls are a soft, warm shade of pink. Two modest windows provide copious light and afford beautiful, but not entrancing nor distracting, views of Yellowstone Park and the Absaroka mountains. A set of walnut double doors opens from the library to a sunny balcony that is an ideal spot for relaxing and reading during the spring and summer.
Library Floor Close up of the Library entryway.
e-mail Neil Aakerstrom or call him at (406)222-6343.
Parquet Floor
The library floor before columns and trim are installed.
Column Finishing
A Corinthian column capital awaits finishing in Joe's studio.
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South Portico Steps Wooden forms are constructed for the concrete south portico steps. The south portico will eventually have steps on three sides much like the Parthenon as created by Pericles on the Acropolis in Athens during the 5th century B.C. The wide steps will provide easy access to the portico while providing it a tiered platform to rise from. Above the south portico is the library balcony.

The wooden forms must be precisely made and able to hold several tons of wet concrete without deforming or bursting. Eventually, bull nosed decorative stone slabs, will cover the rough concrete.

The columns and capitals used in our library and on the south portico came from the immensely helpful and courteous folks at Check out their web site and tell them we sent you. They will take good care of you and your architectural needs.
Wooden Forms
Well constructed wooden forms are built to contain tons of wet concrete. Steel rods called rebar will reinforce the curing concrete.
Rebar forms the core of twin pedestals at the end of the steps. Each will eventually be home to a marble statue of a Greek goddess.
Books Books - steps to knowledge. Every book read allows us to climb a little higher and see a little further. Books can transport us in time, take us to unknown places and create longings that can pull our life in directions we never expected.
Henry David Thoreau's Walden confirmed my reasons for building a log cabin and living in the woods of Connecticut for 10 years. Tolstoy's War and Peace pulled me to the land of the czars in 2004. Robert A. M. Stern's Pride of Place convinced me to build a home that would embody my dreams.
Many generous readers donated books for the new library. I read dozens over the last two, long, cold and fruitful Montana winters. The new house is one creation inspired by many books I have read. The answer to where I go and what I do next, will undoubtedly be found within my collection of books.

What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books.
Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881)
NY Library Reading Room The grand reading room in the New York Public Library. Jefferson Book Collection The book collection of Thomas Jefferson on display in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
Donate a used book and help....

with the rebuilding effort. The Big Creek forest fire consumed my home, business and over 2,000 books; my lifetime collection. Every book was a small treasure and all are greatly missed. Many riders and readers have donated a few books from their personal collections or picked some up at a local used book store or thrift shop to help rebuild the library. Several donated books have helped with architectural and construction ideas for the new home. Some have pulled my life and the lives of my friends and family in pleasing directions. Many of the donated books brought familiar authors and conversations back into my life. They were wonderful company by the warm hearth during our long and snowy Montana winters. Every book was carefully inscribed with the donors's name and date so we will always be reminded of their generosity. Click on the underlined text if you would like to donate a used book or two for our future library.

August 12th, 2007
The Mill Creek forest fire explodes on a hot and windy day. Fortunately Mill Creek is located on the opposite side of Paradise valley and is mostly wilderness land. A few homes were threatened but no serious damage was reported. Old timers told stories of a similar fire in the 1900's that burned out of control and eventually spilled into Paradise Valley. Perhaps with that memory in mind the fire crews worked especially hard and kept this fire in the uninhabitable wilderness area.
Mill Creek Fire
The Mill Creek forest fire rages on a windy, dry and hot day in August.

Cloud Tops
Massive clouds of smoke and steam tower above 10,000 foot peaks in the Absaroka range.
Fiery Clouds
Fiery and smokey clouds catch the setting sun's last rays.
Kohler Box
A battered box arrives late with a Kohler toilet inside.
As a former owner of a web based business,, I appreciate people purchasing products online. I also understand that there are drawbacks when dealing with a business that may be thousands of miles away. For many years I also owned a retail store in the center of Branford, Connecticut where I sold bicycles and clothing to my neighbors and friends. The one aspect that ties both successful business models together is customer service. Almost every web based business I dealt with had excellent and responsive customer service. The one exception was
In January of 2007 I ordered a Kohler toilet and most of my other plumbing needs from Tony at Almost everything arrived quickly and in fine shape. However the Kohler toilets were very slow in coming. When this one arrived seven months later, it was broken into a hundred pieces. I called and they were not interested in replacing the toilet but they did agree to file a freight claim. I will keep you posted on their progress.

Click on the underlined text to view more photos and recent progress regarding the broken toilets and HomeCenter.Com.
Broken Kohler Toilet
A gifted artist carefully decorated this once beautiful, Kohler toilet. Unfortunately it was poorly packaged by Kohler and destroyed in transit.
Broken Kohler Toilet
This was a beautiful Artist's Edition, Kohler toilet. Only an extra layer of cardboard in the carton's corners was added for protection during shipping.
August 13th, 2007
The concrete truck arrived around noon. The driver told us that his first job was steps like ours. The forms burst and the job was a mess. Our guys confidently retort that these forms were built by professional carpenters. An hour later Rich smoothes wet concrete on the top of a pedestal. Our forms held the tremendous weight without a single break.
The next day Rich swings his multi-purpose skid steer into action by digging a trench from the garage to the new well head. Chuck and I cut fire blackened trees and cleared brush. Along the way we uncovered a hornet's nest and we both got stung. Ouch!
Concrete Pour
Rich Spallone of R & B Builders smoothes wet concrete on the top of a pedestal.
E-mail Rich at:
or call him at (406)223-0215
Trench Digging
Rich digs a trench to the new well. It will contain water pipes, electrical and phone lines.
Woodcutter Chuck
Chuck, a seasoned woodcutter, cleared burned trees and brush.
August 14th, 2007
The concrete pour went perfectly. Rich and his crew removed the forms to reveal solid steps and pedestals. Later this autumn we will cover the concrete with pressure formed, decorative stone slabs. They should lend an elegant finish to a delicately tiered set of steps.
Hank stopped by and skillfully integrated the new well into the existing cistern and old well. He installed two more freeze-proof hydrants so I could water the Colorado Blue Spruce trees. Hank employs a sophisticated, variable speed pump that sits in the well and requires just a tiny, less than a cubic foot, pressure tank. When water demand increases the pump simply speeds up in response to meet the demand while maintaining a constant water pressure.
Concrete Steps
Removing the forms reveals a perfectly shaped set of concrete base steps.
Trench to well
The trench winds about 300 feet from the garage to the new well.
Well Pressure Tank
An in the ground silo holds the small well pressure tank and various valves for the outdoor hydrants and drip irrigation system.
Corinthian Column
Kim readies a Corinthian half column for installation in the library.
August 17th, 2007
Neil covered the freshly finished library floor with sturdy Kraft paper so Kim could start with his trim work. Newly painted Corinthian columns were hand carried from Joe's paint studio. Like a surgeon, Kim laid his work out on a table and studied the situation. He devised a way to securely mount the heavy, cast columns to the wall and hardwood floor and underneath a massive overhead beam.
Meanwhile Joe paints more ceiling and wall trim in his studio. After Kim installs the trim, Joe caulks, seals and touches up everything. When all the rooms on the second floor are completed, Neil will come back to give the hardwood floors a final buffing.
Column Closeup
Note how meticulously Kim shaped the baseboard to fit the column base profile..
Joe Fay prepares more ceiling trim in his studio.
Visit Joe Fay's art web site by clicking on the underlined text.
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Page 24
Work and Pleasure

Tim's Life
Main Table of Contents

Branford Bike
Fire Story
Table of Contents

Page 26
2,500 Years of Architectural Inspiration